Elizabeth R Ballou, PhD
Liz is a fungal geneticist and cell biologist investigating how human fungal pathogens integrate environmental signals to change morphology and cause disease. She obtained a PhD in Genetics and Genomics from Duke University, USA, where she demonstrated the role of conserved Rho-GTPases in Cryptococcus neoformans morphogenesis and thermotolerance. In 2012, she joined the Aberdeen Fungal Group, where she demonstrated the ability of Candida albicans to mask cell wall PAMPs in response to host signals. In 2015, through a BBSRC Future Leaders Fellowship, she returned her focus to Cryptococcus, demonstrating that the yeast-to-titan switch is mediated by bacterial peptidoglycan. In 2017 she moved to the University of Birmingham, where her lab, funded by a Wellcome Trust Henry Dale Fellowship, investigates molecular mechanisms underlying titanisation, particularly during host adaptation and drug resistance. In collaboration with Kerstin Voelz, PhD, members of her group also investigate how bacterial endosymbionts drive pathogenesis in Mucorales species.
Current Lab Members
Xin Zhou, Graduate Student
Phoebe joined the lab in 2017 as a PhD student. She is investigating the molecular mechanisms underpinning the yeast-to-titan transition in Cryptococcus neoformans. Phoebe is funded by a Darwin Trust studentship.
Hanna Zafar, Graduate Student
Hanna joined the lab in 2018 as a PhD student. She is investigating the contribution of Cryptococcus titan cells to drug resistance in clinical isolates. Hanna is funded by an NC3Rs studentship.
Diana Tamayo, PhD
Diana joined the lab in 2019 as a post-doc. She is investigating the molecular mechanisms underpinning the yeast-to-titan transition in Cryptococcus neoformans.
Charlottte joined the lab in 2020 as an MSci at the University of Birmingham School of Biosciences. She is investigating the prevalence of Cryptococcus neoformans in the environment.
Hannah joined the Ballou Lab as an MSci at the University of Birmingham in 2020. She investigated how different environmental signals regulate the yeast-to-titan transition using high throughput approaches. She is currently working in industry.
Liyong joined the lab in 2020 as an MSci at the University of Birmingham. Liyong investigated how bacteria influence Cryptococcus morphogenesis. She is currently working in industry.
Femia joined the lab in 2020 as an MSci at the University of Birmingham. Femia investigated how how bacteria influence Cryptococcus morphogenesis and the fungal cell wall.
Kieran joined the lab in 2019 as an MRes at the University of Birmingham. Kieran investigated the how the C. neoformans cell wall changes during morphogenesis and developed new methods for protoplasing titan cells together with Diana Tamayo. He is now pursuing a career in the civil service.
Claire joined the lab in 2019 as a Masters student at the University of Birmingham and was jointly hosted in the Ballou and Banzhaf labs, supervised by Jack Bryant, PhD. Claire investigated how bacterial endosymbionts of Rhizopus microsporus can influence fungal pathogenesis. Claire was funded by a Wellcome Trust Antimicrobials and Antimicrobial Resistance DTP Studentship.
Amber started her PhD in Donna MacCallum’s lab at the University of Aberdeen in 2016, where Liz was her joint supervisor until 2017. Ambre was funded by the NC3Rs to test the suitability of genetically encoded fluorescent proteins for the in vivo imaging of Candida albicans and Cryptococcus neoformans infections. She attained her degree in 2020 and now works at the Roslin Institute.
Poppy Sephton-Clark, PhD
Poppy joined the Voelz lab in 2016 as a PhD student. She is investigating the transcriptional regulation of germination in the human fungal pathogens Rhizopus delemar. Following the closure of the Voelz lab in 2017, she joined the Ballou lab, where she has continued this work, and expanded her analysis to host-pathogen-endosymbiont interactions in Rhizopus species. Poppy is funded by a Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP) studentship.
Herbert Itabangi, PhD
Herbert joined the Voelz lab in 2015 through the Wellcome Trust Strategic Award in Medical Mycology (@WTSAHub). His PhD investigated the role of bacterial endosymbionts in the pathogenesis of Rhizopus microsporus. Following the closure of the Voelz lab in 2017, he joined the Ballou Lab, where he completed his thesis and graduated in 2018. Herbert is now a a Medical Mycologist in the Department of Microbiology and Dermatology at Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Uganda.
Mike joined the lab in 2019 as an MSc at the University of Birmingham. Mike investigated signal transduction pathways regulating Cryptotoccus growth and stress resistance and the yeast-to-Titan transition and also worked as an intern, developing new fluorescent reporters for C. neoformans. He currently works at the Institute Pasteur Shanghai as a research assistant.
Rainy joined the Ballou lab in 2019 as an MSc at the University of Birmingham. Rainy investigated the capacity of novel chemotherapeutic compounds to inhibit growth and drug resistance of Cryptococcus titan cells.
Helen joined the Ballou lab in 2017 as an MRes a the University of Birmingham. Helen investigated the impact of environmental pre-condition on Cryptococcus stress response and pathogenesis. She is currently completing a PhD at the University of Warwick as part of the Midlands Integrative Biosciences Training Partnership (MIBTP).
Christina is an fungal immunologist and fungal biologist. She joined the Ballou lab in 2015 as an undergraduate at the University of Aberdeen and then returned as an MRes through the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology. While in the group, she investigated the contribution of Nox and NoxR to Cryptotoccus growth and stress resistance and the yeast-to-Titan transition. She is currently completing a PhD in the laboratory of Prof Gordon Brown at the MRC Centre for Medical Mycology.
Medina joined the Ballou lab in 2018 as an MRes at the University of Birmingham. Medina investigated the role of host-derived reactive species on fungal survival and stress responses.
Coral joined the lab in 2020 as a BSc in Biological Sciences. Coral investigated molecular mechanisms underlying the yeast-to-Titan transition in C. neoformans using high-throughput approaches.
Bryan worked with us as a summer student through the British Mycology Society in the summer of 2020. Along side Hanna Zafar, Bryan investigated how differences in clinical isolate genome architecture influence phenotype. He is currently studying medicine at Cambridge
Hanqi joined the lab in 2019 as a BSc in Biological Sciences. Hanqi investigated molecular mechanisms underlying the yeast-to-Titan transition in C. neoformans, and graduated in 2020. She is now undertaking a Masters at Imperial College, London.
While an undergraduate at the University of Aberdeen in 2015, Tom worked on Cryptococcus neoformans and identified conditions for inducing Titan cells and screened for mutants deficient in Titanisation. These findings were the foundation of a paper published in 2018 in PLOS Pathogens. He currently works in industry.
Elizabeth joined the Ballou Lab as a BSc student at the University of Birmingham in 2017. She investigated the role of the cytoskeleton in Cryptococcus cell growth during Titanisation.
Georgie joined the Ballou Lab as a BSc student at the University of Birmingham in 2017. She investigated the contribution of Cryptococcus Titan cells to drug resistance.
Rob joined the Ballou Lab as a BSc student at the University of Aberdeen in 2015. He investigated the role of stress pre-exposure in priming Cryptococcus for host pathogenesis.